Does the LG V50’s camera setup offer any improvement?
- The LG V50 ThinQ uses a near-identical five sensor setup to last year’s LG V40
- There’s a dual 8/5-megapixel setup on the front and a 12/16/12-meg triple arrangement on the rear, featuring an ultrawide and telephoto sensor
- General performance is fine but the phone doesn’t offer the same quality or competency as other 2019 flagship devices
One of the main sticking points of the LG V50 is that it borrows so heavily from its predecessor, the LG V40. While image processing and AI scene detection may have improved, it appears that the hardware between these two generations has essentially been left untouched.
While an if-it-ain’t-broke approach works with some aspects of smartphone design and manufacturing, this isn’t the case for camera hardware and so the V50 lags behind the latest and greatest 2019 camera phones.
Related: Best camera phones 2019
Despite this, you’re still getting an impressively versatile setup. The V50 aims to take on the Google Pixel 3 series, with its dual 8- and 5-megapixel front-facing cameras, one of which sports a wide-angle field of view. Flip the phone over and you’ll find three sensors and an LED flash, set flush with the phone’s flat glass back – a camera bump-free design is a real rarity amid 2019 smartphones.
The main 12-megapixel sensor boasts three-axis OIS (optical image stabilisation) and an impressively wide f/1.5 aperture, while the secondary 16-megapixel sensor forgoes OIS but employs a 107.8-degree ultrawide-angle lens. The inclusion of a 12-megapixel third telephoto sensor is one of the main distinctions between the camera setup on this year’s LG G8 and the V50, again featuring OIS and offering 2x lossless optical zoom.
Generally speaking, the shots from the phone’s main sensor come out pleasingly exposed and fairly accurately coloured. The V50 likes to shoot a little warm, but not so much that it compromises the overall finish of the image.
Compared to the ultrawide and telephoto sensors, you can expect far better contrast management and dynamic range, as well as a more appealing depth effect, with seemingly natural bokeh and detail that doesn’t look over-processed.
While the V50’s detail capture isn’t bad, it could certainly be better, especially when shooting in high-contrast or low-light scenarios (as above).
The versatility of that rear three-camera setup grants you the flexibility to capture a new perspective on a scene. In well-lit environments, the telephoto sensor is perfectly usable but with a narrower f/2.4 aperture (compared to the other two rear cameras) it more readily suffers when available light is lacking.
It’s important to understand when best to use the ultrawide-angle snapper. While it allows you to fit more in frame, it also distorts imagery, which, depending on your scene, can be used for added effect to create a more engrossing shot.
As for the front cameras, I was surprised by the lacklustre dynamic range from both sensors. Oddly enough, it’s better out of the secondary 5-megapixel snapper, but across both, blacks appear washed out, while highlights become blown out all too easily.
What’s more, the fact that between the two sensors there’s only a 10-degree difference in their fields of view renders the wider 5-megapixel sensor far less useful and better suited to simply providing depth data when using portrait mode.
Despite that wide f/1.5 aperture and OIS, LG’s low-light shooting capabilities are still miles behind the technology from the likes of Google and Huawei. As a result, image quality degrades far too quickly in such situations.
The V50’s AI Cam mode and Night View mode only go so far with regards to lifting the Auto low-light shooting experience. The former dresses shots with more accurate and vibrant colours, while the latter improves dynamic range and detail. Even so, neither really improves the resultant images enough to say that LG has fixed the phone’s base low-light photography abilities.
Bring things back to brighter climbs and one area where the V50 does impress is video record. Not only can the phone shoot up to 4K at 60fps (frames per second) but it also offers some of the best in-device stabilisation I’ve tested when shooting at anything other than max settings.
Once Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 arrives for review, I’ll no doubt test these phones side by side, with the Korean company’s video stabilisation serving as one of its camera’s biggest selling points.